Friday, April 27, 2012

Fun mystery with Edgar Allan Poe hunting killer

The Raven (2012)
Starring: John Cusack, Luke Evans, Alice Eve, Kevin McNally, and Brendan Gleeson
Director: John McTiernan
Rating: Seven of Ten Stars

In 1849, a madman launches on a series of grisly murders inspired by the writings of Edgar Allan Poe. When Baltimore Police Detective Fields (Evans) turns to Poe himself (Cusack) for help in the investigation, he plays into the killer's hand and draws not only Poe but his young lady love (Eve) into a web of terror and destruction rivaled only by Poe's horror stories.

"The Raven" is a neat, if not terribly deep, mystery film. It has an atmosphere that brought to mind a little bit Poe's stories--with their twisted intrigues, darkly romantic atmosphere, and downbeat endings where nobody wins and all is horror and misery--and a lot of the Edgar Wallace-inspired movies from the 1960s--with their masked maniacal villains undertaking impossible schemes of murder. It's a combination that I enjoyed immensely as the film unfolded. I liked the film's denouement, because until the film's last moment it looked like they were setting up a sequel... and I was relieved that they backed away from that. (Although... the way it did ultimately end, the door was left open for one, depending on what you imagine happened as the credits start to roll.)

While there were some aspects of the film that seemed a bit far-fetched--with the killer built a massive contraption to re-enact "The Pit and the Pendulum" alone and undetected being the worst of these--the biggest complaint I have with the movie is the use of those CGI blood-spatter effects that every filmmaker, from the most budget-starved backyard productions to the money-gorged opening-on-2000-screens studio extravaganzas. As in every other film I've seen them used in, theses look so fake that they break the illusion and wrecks the scene far more than even the worst practical blood effects. Is it really so much more expensive to hook an actor up to some tubes and pump red liquid through them? The effects crew did it when a couple of throats got slit during the course of the movie, so would it really have been that much harder and that much more expensive to just same effect on a larger when a guy gets cut in half by a giant, swinging blade?

Overall, though, this is a film worth taking a trip to the Cineplex for... although you can just as easily wait for it to be released on DVD or VOD, because there's really nothing here that will be lost by not seeing in on the theatre. Heck, maybe those terrible blood effects will seem less terrible when on a smaller screen.

1 comment:

  1. Despite a handful of narrative missteps and a few errant accents, it's actually a pretty neat "what if?" story. Although I can definitely see it's not for everyone to sit and enjoy. Cusack was also pretty good and definitely lifted up this material. Nice review Steve.